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Letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Wounded Warriors Act Created Board to Ensure Veterans Get Accurate Benefits and Care - but Fewer than 5% of the 77,000 Eligible Vets have Applied since 2008

Today, Mark Udall sent a letter on behalf of Colorado veterans asking Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to coordinate with the Department of Defense and help spread the word about a program established two years ago to ensure veterans' disability and retirement benefits match their sacrifice for our country.

The Pentagon's Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) was established as part of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act of 2008 in part because of reports that thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were going without adequate treatment for their service-related injuries. The board allows veterans to appeal their separation decision and service-assigned disability rating to ensure they're getting the services and benefits they have earned. The need for the program is evident - since it was created, the PDBR has found that 56 percent of the veterans who have applied to it received higher combined disability ratings following a review. But while approximately 77,000 veterans - 5,500 in Colorado alone - are eligible to appeal, only 2,411 veterans have applied nationwide - in many cases because the veterans have been out of the military long enough that the Defense Department no longer has accurate contact information and can't make them aware of the opportunity.

In his letter, Udall says the VA is better positioned to reach veterans because it has more up-to-date contact information. He urges the VA to share its database to help the Pentagon inform veterans that they can apply to have their disability ratings re-evaluated - and ensure them that their original ratings can't be downgraded in the appeal.

"The PDBR has been in operation for more than two years; however, fewer than 5% of the 77,000 eligible veterans have applied to have their cases reviewed. Of those cases adjudicated by the Board, over 50% have had their disability determination upgraded resulting in a disability retirement for the Veteran," Udall wrote. "I request your assistance in making all eligible Veterans aware of this important board and allowing them to take the outreach effort to the next level by mailing a letter to each eligible Veteran to inform them of their eligibility to apply to the PDBR."

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

The purpose of this letter is to solicit your help in making all veterans aware of the Department of Defense (DoD) Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR). The PDBR was created by Congress as part of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act of 2008 and signed into law on January 28, 2008. It provides Veterans who were medically separated from their military service between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009 with the opportunity for review of their disability ratings to ensure fairness, consistency and accuracy.

The PDBR has been in operation for more than two years; however, fewer than 5% of the 77,000 eligible veterans have applied to have their cases reviewed. Of those cases adjudicated by the Board, over 50% have had their disability determination upgraded resulting in a disability retirement for the Veteran. It is my understanding that the primary reason for the high recharacterization rates is that the PDBR uses the Veteran Affairs Schedule of Rating Disability.

The 2008 Wounded Warrior legislation directed the DoD to establish the PDBR, but the individuals the board serves are all Veterans who are no longer serving. In that light, I request your assistance in making all eligible Veterans aware of this important board and allowing them to take the outreach effort to the next level by mailing a letter to each eligible Veteran to inform them of their eligibility to apply to the PDBR.

I appreciate the great strides you have made to ensure our Veterans are aware of the programs and opportunities made available to them by our grateful nation.

Sincerely,

Mark Udall


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